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Writing Sample Advice


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What are graduate schools looking for in a writing sample?  Would anyone who has been successfully admitted into a history program be interested in reading a portion of my senior thesis?  

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The best people to approach with this question would be professors whom you trust (i.e.: LOR writers). Not only have they personally been through the application process, but many have also been on adcomms, and are therefore in a unique position to offer important insights from the other side. IIRC, you're a few years removed from your undergrad years, but if you're planning to apply for a graduate program, you'll have to get back in touch eventually anyway.


For what it's worth, I used my undergraduate thesis as my writing sample. While writing it, I strived to construct a thoughtful, well-crafted research paper that might someday be published. Some general notes on how I went about the project:

 - During the conception phase, I tried to find a topic that was original and relatively under-examined.

 - During the research phase, I accessed (and extensively used) primary-source materials at a university other than my undergraduate institution (a fact that I also mentioned in my SOP).

 - During the writing phase, I made an effort to construct a focused, deliberate piece that still situated the content within current historiography.

 - During the revision phase, I edited aggressively, scouring every single word and footnote with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that I wouldn't "lose points" over silly grammar/spelling/word-choice/structure errors.

 - Before I finalized my writing sample, I asked myself this one big question: "Does the project display enough originality, quality research, and writing skill that I could (in theory) trick a reasonably intelligent person into believing that this work has been approved for publication in a respected academic journal?"

Edited by thedig13
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